Please don’t have any kids
I recently read this New York Times article about choosing to have kids, called “Think Before You Breed”.
It describes the pressure childless people have from breeders to have kids. I believe they feel that pressure, and I want to explain it a bit, from the point of view of a person with three kids.
First of all, if you feel pressure coming from me, it’s entirely unintentional. In fact, I consider having children a deeply irrational thing to do – any kind of cost/benefit analysis focusing on material costs and such would steer me very wide of the practice of sacrificing my health, my time, and enormous amounts of resources to these little economic leeches that likely won’t even talk to me after they leave for college, which I will be paying for if I can afford it.
And not only is having kids a stupid idea in terms of economics – it’s also a hugely dangerous proposition, because it’s so much easier to screw up your kids than it is to raise healthy, well-adjusted people. There are pitfalls in every direction, and when it comes to it I think there should be a 4-year college, with forced enrollment of people who are embarking on the parenting thing, before it happens. That nothing like this happens, that kids themselves can have kids without any planning or training, is actually crazy considering how much maturity is required to do a half-decent job of it.
The only defense I really have of bearing three children is that my instincts told me to do it, and they, my instincts, didn’t play fair. In fact until I turned 23 I didn’t want kids, and I had a completely rational view of how much of a pain they’d be, and how much they’d take over my life, etc.. But somehow when I turned 23, there was something deep in my gut that kicked in and made me start missing my as-yet-unborn kids, as if I’d forgotten to kiss them goodnight and they were whimpering upstairs in their rooms. I know, I know, it’s over the top, but there you have it, instincts take no prisoners.
In summation: I don’t want you to have kids unless you absolutely have to. It’s bad for the planet, it’s bad for you, and it’s likely bad for your kids. The only thing I’d be checking if I ask you whether you plan to have kids is whether you have caught the same disease I did when I turned 23 – it’s not a request! It’s a sanity check!
Now I don’t think I’m completely normal in my view. I do think that lots of people get so intoxicated with the breeding thing that they literally think other people are insane if they don’t want to join the club. That’s super annoying and I don’t think there’s much you can actually do about these people. If it helps, when I’m listening in on that conversation I’ll be happy to interject and suggest that nobody in their right mind would ever breed. But rational arguments such as lack of resources, time, and attention would probably not sway these people, because they are true believers and need to think that it’s the only reasonable thing to do. They are married to convention.
They are also usually convinced their kids will never hate them, never move across the country for college and refuse to write, so the argument that they’ll be lonely when they’re old also doesn’t seem to help – they will tell you that, as a non-breeder, it will be you who is lonely when you’re old. It’s ironic, this line of argument, especially because you’re often talking to someone who hasn’t invested themselves in hobbies; they’re obsessed with the progress of their kids’ violin lessons and robotics teams but don’t have a true independent interest outside their children. Do they really think their kids will still let them into their lives 24 hours a day when they’re 25?
I firmly believe that, without kids, I could be establishing a far richer network of (probably childless) friends that will still be around to hang out with and talk politics when I get old. I’m still trying to do this now, by the way, but most nights I need to get home by 5:45 to make plain pasta and steamed broccoli, the only two things I’ve eaten in the past 12 years.
Look, everyone tries to convince themselves and people around them that the life choices they’ve made are the right ones. It’s uncomfortable to constantly feel like an idiot about this kind of thing, believe me. For myself, in spite of how irrational I have been, I can truly say I’ve managed to convince myself on a daily basis that I don’t mind the sacrifice because at least I get to hear my kids say insulting, sarcastic things that seem new to me (“ooh, I hadn’t heard that one! It’s goooood!”). It all makes it worth it. Plus I love them to bits, and they happen to be really cool people that might just contribute positively to the world whilst having a raucous amount of mischievous fun. At least that’s what I’ll imagine is happening when I’m old and lonely.